by Domenico Vito, Vladislav Malashevskyy
*This article has been written with the aid of OpenAI
As the global community grapples with the escalating challenges posed by climate change, there is an urgent need for innovative solutions that can accelerate our transition to a sustainable future. In this quest for solutions, Artificial Intelligence (AI) emerges as a powerful ally, offering unprecedented opportunities to address climate-related issues with efficiency and precision. This article explores the transformative potential of AI in the realm of climate action, outlining key applications and initiatives that can pave the way for a greener, more resilient planet.
A. Climate Modeling and Prediction:
One of the primary contributions of AI to climate action lies in its ability to enhance climate modeling and prediction. Traditional climate models are complex and computationally intensive, often limited in their capacity to capture the intricate dynamics of the Earth’s climate system. AI algorithms, particularly machine learning, can analyze vast datasets and identify patterns that traditional models might overlook. This allows for more accurate climate predictions, enabling policymakers to make informed decisions on adaptation and mitigation strategies.
B. Renewable Energy Optimization:
AI is instrumental in optimizing the efficiency and output of renewable energy sources. By leveraging machine learning algorithms, energy systems can be fine-tuned to match supply with demand, improving the integration of solar and wind power into the grid. Smart grids, enabled by AI, can dynamically adjust energy distribution based on real-time data, reducing waste and maximizing the use of clean energy sources. This not only enhances the reliability of renewable energy but also accelerates the transition away from fossil fuels.
C. Carbon Capture and Sequestration:
AI plays a crucial role in advancing carbon capture and sequestration technologies, which are pivotal in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. Machine learning algorithms can analyze and optimize the processes involved in capturing carbon dioxide from industrial sources, making these technologies more efficient and cost-effective. Furthermore, AI can aid in identifying suitable locations for carbon sequestration, ensuring the secure and long-term storage of captured carbon.
D. Precision Agriculture for Emission Reduction:
The agricultural sector is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, with practices such as excessive fertilizer use leading to environmental degradation. AI-powered precision agriculture offers a solution by optimizing resource use, minimizing waste, and reducing emissions. Through the analysis of data from sensors, satellites, and drones, AI can provide farmers with real-time insights into soil health, crop conditions, and weather patterns. This enables targeted interventions, such as optimized irrigation and fertilization, ultimately reducing the environmental impact of agriculture.
E. Climate Change Adaptation:
Adapting to the impacts of climate change is as crucial as mitigating its causes. AI technologies can assist in developing adaptive strategies by analyzing historical climate data and predicting future trends. This information can be used to design resilient infrastructure, plan for changing weather patterns, and enhance disaster preparedness. AI-driven early warning systems can help communities anticipate and respond to extreme weather events, reducing the risks associated with climate-related disasters.
F. Monitoring and Enforcement:
AI contributes to monitoring and enforcing environmental regulations by analyzing satellite imagery and sensor data. This allows for the identification of illegal deforestation, pollution hotspots, and other environmental infringements. Governments and environmental agencies can use AI to track compliance, enforce regulations, and hold accountable those who contribute to environmental degradation. This not only aids in preventing further damage but also promotes a culture of responsibility and sustainability.
2. the #AI4ClimateAction Initiative and relevant case studies
In line with the call by UN Secretary-General António Guterres to develop AI that is “reliable and safe” and that can “supercharge climate action” to propel us towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, the #AI4ClimateAction Initiative aims to deliver concrete and transformative results, both on policy and implementation, under the first joint work programme of UN Climate Change’s Technology Mechanism.
Some AI-powered solutions for climate action in developing countries, including least developed countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS), are already underway:
- Innovative adaptation technologies such as AI-powered models can provide early warning systems to alert communities about impending disasters. The Biosphere Reserves as Observatories for Climate Change Adaptation in Southern Africa (Be-Resilient), for example, uses AI to predict flooding patterns in Mozambique.
- Agri-food systems and crop management can be optimized with AI predicting the best planting times, assessing soil health and monitoring pest and disease outbreaks. AI-driven precision agriculture can also reduce water usage, promote sustainable farming practices and boost food production. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), for instance, is using AI to enhance impact-based forecasting by the Climate Prediction and Applications Centre in East Africa’s agriculture sectors, which is key for food security, livelihoods and economic development.
- Renewable energy systems’ efficiency and reliability can be improved by AI algorithms that predict energy demand, optimize grid operations and integrate renewable energy sources seamlessly, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting a shift toward low-emission energy solutions. One example is the Global Renewables Watch, a live atlas intended to map and measure utility-scale solar and wind installations using AI and satellite imagery, allowing users to evaluate clean energy transition progress and to track trends over time.
To inform the work of the #AI4ClimateAction Initiative, the UN Climate Change Technology Executive Committee (TEC) is convening national climate technology focal points and representatives from civil society, academia and the private sector for consultations during the Regional Climate Weeks.
During Africa Climate Week (ACW) in Kenya, innovative examples of AI-powered solutions were highlighted: from climate-resilient supply-chains and clean energy solutions for rural women to disaster risk reduction initiatives across the continent.
Key considerations emerging from ACW included the need to ensure the ethical use of AI and the development of regulatory frameworks. Promoting stakeholder engagement and participatory processes, strengthening developing countries’ technical and institutional capacities, and promoting demand-driven, fit-for-purpose and inclusive AI-powered tools were among other issues also discussed. The next regional consultation will take place during the Asia-Pacific Climate Week in Malaysia.
On Dec 9, 2023 at COP28 UN Climate Change Launches AI Innovation Grand Challenge for Climate Action in Developing Countries
In a groundbreaking move, the UN Climate Change Technology Executive Committee (TEC) and Enterprise Neurosystem, a non-profit open-source artificial intelligence (AI) community, have unveiled the AI Innovation Grand Challenge. This initiative aims to identify and support the development of AI-powered solutions specifically tailored for climate action in developing countries. Launched during a high-level event at COP28, the Innovation Grand Challenge signifies a pivotal step in harnessing AI’s potential to combat climate change.
“We are seeing increasing evidence that artificial intelligence can prove an invaluable instrument in tackling climate change. While we remain mindful of the associated challenges and risks of AI, the Innovation Grand Challenge is a promising step forward in harnessing the power of artificial intelligence and empowering innovators in developing countries,”
UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell.
During the COP28 event, leaders from governments, the United Nations, development cooperation agencies, and businesses convened to discuss the transformative role of AI in climate action for developing nations. The discussions centered on how AI can predict climate patterns, improve agricultural yields, reduce water consumption, and optimize renewable energy systems. However, a key concern was ensuring that AI adoption does not exacerbate the digital divide, highlighting the importance of equal access to technology.
H.E. Omar Sultan Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy, and Remote Work Applications in the United Arab Emirates, stressed the need to integrate AI into national policies and plans strategically. This integration, he argued, enables the use of data analytics to align policy with real-time climate data, enhancing efficacy and advancing technological development in energy-related fields.
Partnerships and collaborations were highlighted as essential components of successfully integrating AI into climate action. H.E. Shantal Munro-Knight, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Barbados, underscored the importance of collaboration with international tech companies to test AI-driven ideas in Barbados. Potential applications included using AI for disease detection, designing hurricane-resistant structures, and planning infrastructure investments.
Addressing the digital divide, H.E. Moussa Bocar Thiam, Minister of Communications, Telecommunications, and the Digital Economy in Senegal, emphasized the need to adapt technology to account for disparities, particularly among those most vulnerable to climate change. Integrating local languages into emerging technology tools, such as chatbot voices, was proposed as a solution to bridge existing digital divides.
The event showcased a global commitment to responsible AI development, echoing the sentiments of Mr. Ali Zaidi, Assistant to the President and National Climate Advisor of the United States. He highlighted the importance of managing risks while seizing the promise of AI, emphasizing the United States’ commitment to harnessing this technology responsibly. President Biden’s recent Executive Order on AI exemplifies this dedication, aiming to develop AI tools that mitigate climate change risks, promote sustainability, and foster resilience in communities.
The Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) and the incoming COP Presidency has launched– together with Enterprise Neurosystem – the AI Innovation Grand Challenge: a climate technology and innovation competition to drive new AI applications for climate mitigation and adaptation action in developing countries.
The AI Innovation Grand Challenge is part of the broader Technology Mechanism Initiative on Artificial Intelligence for Climate Action (#AI4ClimateAction) 
This initiative focuses on the potential of AI to scale up climate solutions in developing countries, with a specific emphasis on least developed countries and small island developing states. In alignment with UN Secretary-General António Guterres’s call for “reliable and safe” AI to supercharge climate action and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, the #AI4ClimateAction Initiative seeks to advance climate-resilient and low-emissions development.
The Chairs of the Technology Mechanism, Stig Svenningsen and Erwin Rose, concluded the event by calling for new collaborations and partnerships. These collaborations aim to deliver tangible results, both in terms of policy and implementation, under the #AI4ClimateAction Initiative. As the world grapples with the urgent challenges of climate change, the Innovation Grand Challenge signals a collective effort to leverage AI as a strategic tool in the global fight against environmental degradation.
In the face of the unprecedented challenges posed by climate change, the integration of AI into climate action strategies presents a ray of hope for a sustainable future. From improving climate modeling to optimizing renewable energy and enhancing agricultural practices, AI’s applications are diverse and impactful. However, it is crucial to approach the deployment of AI in climate action with ethical considerations, ensuring that the benefits are equitably distributed and that the technology does not exacerbate existing social or environmental disparities. By embracing AI as a powerful tool in our arsenal, we can amplify our efforts to combat climate change and pave the way for a greener, more resilient planet.